TV Ratings: Dem Debate No. 5 Sinks on MSNBC

Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton Feb 4 Debate - H 2016

By far the lowest-performing of the cycle, the O'Malley-less showdown limps in early returns.

Just 24 hours after appearing at a CNN Town Hall, lone remaining Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had their first mano a mano showdown on MSNBC — and it did not stack up to previous DNC debates.

The debate, the first since Martin O'Malley dropped out of the race, averaged a mere 3.3 rating among metered market households in Nielsen's overnight returns and a tentative 4.5 million viewers. That's almost half of the previous low, a 6.0 rating, set by a Saturday debate on ABC in December. That ultimately translated to 8 million viewers for ABC.

It marked MSNBC's first showing in the debates. The third-place cable news network previously only aired a Democratic Forum. And it elevated from CNN's Wednesday Town Hall. That special, which did not feature the candidates actually speaking with one another, averaged 2.7 million viewers.

The Democrats have already been trailing the Republicans in debate performance, and both parties have seen audiences erode as the number of debates is now into the double digits. 

See below for a complete rundown of debate audiences to date. 


Aug. 8 — 24 million (FNC)
Sept. 16 – 23 million (CNN0
Oct. 28 — 14 million (CNBC)
Nov. 10 — 13.5 million (FBN)
Dec. 15 — 18.2 million (CNN)
Jan. 14 — 11.1 million (FBN)
Jan. 28 — 12.5 million (FNC)


Oct. 13 — 15.8 million (CNN)
Nov. 14 — 8.6 million (CBS)
Dec. 19 — 8 million (ABC)
Jan. 17 — 10.2 million (NBC)
Feb. 4 — 4.5 million (MSNBC)